Food and housing insecurity is a growing issue on California State University campuses and more safety nets for students are needed, according to a recent report by CSU Long Beach professor Rashida Crutchfield.
“Serving Displaced and Food Insecure Students in the CSU” was commissioned by the CSU Chancellor’s Office to “shed light on how CSU campuses were meeting the needs of displaced and food insecure students.”
Food insecurity was measured through a survey that asked how often students were worried about having enough money for food, worried about skipping meals, and unable to eat balanced meals. At CSU Long Beach one in four students responded as food insecure and 12 percent as housing insecure.
The report found that services for food insecure students were underprovided, underfunded, and not well marketed on many campuses. It recommended that the state boost sustainable financial support for services and that individual campuses develop more programs to support the needs of displaced and food insecure students.
“The most common response to students with food and housing insecurity was aspirational in thinking and limited in practice,” the report states.
Cal Poly identified food insecurity as an issue for its students a few years ago, and as a result, the Cal Poly Food Pantry was introduced. Students struggling to meet their nutritional needs can visit the pantry and be given a backpack full of food for free.
“All of us in higher education, we see students that have a variety of unmet needs,” said Theresa Fagouri, a health educator who oversees the Cal Poly Food Pantry. “Food insecurity was an identified need. [The university] reached out to donors, and now we have something in place.”
The food pantry contains nonperishable foods like canned beans and quinoa, in addition to some fruit, vegetables, eggs, and cheese.
“We have a variety of burritos and frozen vegetables,” Fagouri said. “Cal Poly donates eggs and cheese. We buy yogurt, fruit, veggie bowls. It’s a university-wide effort.”
The pantry has seen an increase in student use lately, which Fagouri partially attributes to Cal Poly doing a good job marketing the pantry and to the recent closure of the Haggen’s supermarkets.
She’s also aware that some students are struggling to meet their basic needs.
“It’s a great opportunity to say, ‘Hey, what’s going on in your life?’” Fagouri said. “And sometimes we make an appropriate referral to another resource on campus.”